Supreme Court Movie Piracy Case Could Reveal Wrong Person

After an ISP refused to hand over the identity of a customer to anti-piracy lawyers who claim him to be the first uploader of a pre-release movie, they took the case to court. Shrouded in secrecy the case is heading for the Supreme Court but even if the anti-piracy group wins, they're going to get the ID of the wrong guy.

KAMERAMax Manus, a World War II movie based on the real-life events of resistance fighter Max Manus was the most expensive Norwegian film production to date.

Inevitably, a version of the movie that had been recorded in an empty theater leaked onto the Internet. Producer John M. Jacobsen was furious, vowing to track down the leaker mercilessly.

An investigation controlled by notorious pirate hunter Espen Tøndel and the Simonsen law firm was launched. They later announced that they had tracked down the IP address from where the movie was first uploaded to the Internet.

After the police expressed disinterest, Simonsen went to the courts to force an ISP to reveal the identity of the individual behind the IP address. Much to the disappointment of transparency advocates in Norway, few people know the outcome of that case since it’s being kept a secret. All we know is that one party wasn’t happy with the verdict and the case is now off to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will have to decide if it’s acceptable for privately owned companies with financial interests in the outcome of a case to be given the power to obtain the identity of an Internet subscriber behind an IP-address, whether or not they committed the alleged offense.

And “whether or not” is a key phrase here. Not only does an IP address alone fail to identify an individual sat at a keyboard, TorrentFreak has been provided with information which indicates that the person the investigators claim to be the first uploader of the movie is actually no such thing.

As with much pre-released material, the content first makes its way on to the Internet via so-called ‘Scene’ groups. The Max Manus movie was first released by a group called KAMERA on a secure site on December 29th 2008 at 14:04:16.

A note the group included with the release reads: “We would recommend everyone to go and watch this movie in your local theater, and even buy the dvd/blu-ray when it hits the stores. This is a great movie, and it definitely deserves it!”

Instead of going after KAMERA, Simonsen are going after a much easier target – a secondary uploader who made his upload to a private BitTorrent tracker just under 3 hours later. Despite all the fuss, to date the movie has been downloaded just 2,800 times from the site it was released on.

Going through intermediaries, a source inside KAMERA confirmed to TorrentFreak they had nothing to do with the BitTorrent release but understandably declined to comment further. A source close to the group said they were disappointed that the movie had escaped onto the wider Internet due to all the publicity it’s received.

The tactic of going for easy targets is nothing new for anti-piracy groups, especially if it grabs some headlines. In 2005, a ‘workprint’ version of Star Wars Episode III leaked onto the Internet, put there by an previously unknown group called VISA. No member of this outfit was ever traced but the admins of EliteTorrents paid dearly for later making the movie available on BitTorrent.

In December 2009, following mountains of bad press and propaganda, Gilberto Sanchez, 47, was arrested at his home in the Bronx on charges of violating copyright law and now faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for supposedly being the infamous Wolverine ‘workprint’ leaker. “I’m a scapegoat for this,” he later told the New York Times. “I’m gonna get crucified.”

Few believe that Sanchez was the original uploader of Wolverine and now it appears the mystery person behind the IP address in the Max Manus investigation is not the original uploader either. Whether his or her identity will be made available to the anti-piracy lawyers is now up to the Supreme Court to decide.

While the actual first leakers of pre-release material continue to remain utterly elusive, those who dare to leak onto the wider Internet will continue to shoulder all of the blame, thanks to the inability of anti-piracy groups to investigate any further.

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